The pressure on the humanitarian system appears to be growing. Aid from governments reached US$12.4 billion in 2010, the highest figure on record. At the same time UN appeals in 2010 reached their highest ever figure of US$11.2 billion, double what it was in 2006, and for the first time in five years the level of needs met fell significantly. This is occurring alongside continued high prices for basic commodities that on the one hand creates more need and on the other reduces the amount of aid that each humanitarian dollar can buy. There is also considerable pressure on donors to be spending less or justifying each dollar spent, prioritising value for money and pushing for more and more impact with the same expenditure. Whilst it would be overly dramatic to say the humanitarian system is near breaking point, it cannot be denied that it is under substantial strain.
It is not surprising to see preparedness on almost everyone’s agenda in the humanitarian community. A sharper focus on preparedness is seen by many stakeholders as potentially transformative. It could not only connect humanitarian and development actors better and help focus national priorities, but also help reduce those growing costs of humanitarian interventions.
A study recently completed by Development Initiatives for the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) on behalf of the Inter-Agency Steering Committee (IASC) has highlighted both the current inadequate investment in preparedness as well as the many issues needed to be overcome before improvements can be both sustained and sustainable.
Funding to prevention and preparedness code, 2004-2009 (US$m constant 2009 prices). Source: OECD DAC data
Key issues to address are the inadequacy of existing financing mechanisms, lack of prioritisation or analysis of all risks, inability to learn lessons from one context to another and institutional structure issues with both global and country-level leadership.
“Not all the [preparedness] solutions are within our [humanitarians] hands but perhaps we are best placed to ensure overall aid is targeted correctly, because we are otherwise left with the failure of not doing so.” Government donor representative
Above all donor structures that separate out humanitarian and development aid into two somewhat artificial camps, continue to inform a situation where preparedness is only considered short-term and the responsibility of which is place with ‘humanitarians’ who have neither the policies nor funding to make adequate improvements.
You can see the full report here
 See the GHA report 2011 for full details.